Book 1: Cedar Falls Love Stories

Excerpt: Ticket to Love

Excerpt: Ticket to Love

Chapter One


My mother says every police officer shares one common thread holding us together: Confidence. Whether male or female. No matter the color of our skin, LGBTQ or any other letter you want to slap on us. Tall or short. Doesn’t matter. We’re Type-A, adrenaline junkies, and we wear confidence like a badge of honor.

Even at five-three and weighing a buck fifteen when sopping wet, I am one badass rookie cop. Growing up with four older brothers, I learned early on not to take crap from anybody. Every situation, I face head on. I’m battle ready. Nothing scares me.

Except an angry chief of police.

I hide from him.

“Goddamned tourists! Think laws don’t apply to them while they’re on vacation,” Chief Williams shouts, slamming the phone on the cradle. “If I had a dime for every law they broke, I’d be a rich sonofabitch, sitting at home, retired, and…”

…watching my favorite cable shows all damned day, I recite from memory in my head as I slip out the front door of the police station.

“Officer Stone!” the chief bellows. “Get your skinny little butt back in here.”

Grrr… I clocked in and grabbed my book of tickets without making a sound. How did he even know I’m here? He was staring out the window the entire time, his back facing me. And why is he at the station on a Saturday? With a deep breath, I face the dragon. Best to keep the conversation brief and on point.

“Hey, Chief. What do you need? I’m heading out for my shift.”

My boss tosses me his smartphone. He leans his hands on the desk, his face a mass of angry folds, like the jowls of a mastiff. Even crouched over, he looms more than ten inches above me.

“Take a look at this text. Some jerk took two parking spaces. My wife can’t pick up our dry cleaning. We’ve got a wedding to attend tonight. Damned nuisance!”

Lifting my sunglasses, I inspect a photo of an SUV parked outside the Fluff n’ Fold. The right set of tires overlap halfway on the yellow divider line. Honestly, if I had come across this car on my own, I would’ve let it fly.

“I don’t know, Chief.” I shrug and hand his phone back. “Looks like another vehicle can easily pull in beside it.”

His eyes widen. “Have you driven my wife’s Yukon? Sure, she can pull in. But what good is that if she can’t open the damned door to get out?”

Good point. “Sorry. Of course, you’re right.”

He shakes his head. “You want Detective Harris’s position when he retires? I don’t think so. Whoever earns that spot needs killer instincts. You’re too soft, Stone.”

What the hell? I’ve dreamed of this opportunity since I was ten years old. Solving mysteries is my passion. My instincts are razor sharp.

I narrow my gaze on his. “That’s a load of horse shit. I’m perfect for the detective position. Let me take care of this issue for you. Give me fifteen minutes, then send your wife over.”

He folds his arms, assessing me with his weighty stare. I deserve the chance to prove him wrong.

“Don’t be soft and let the bastard off with a warning!” he snarls.

“No, sir.” How many times must I prove myself before the other officers see me as a cop and not a woman? I shake my head. “Not even if the perp is my grandmother! The bitch is getting a ticket.”

The chief howls with laughter, and his whole face lights up. Humor always defuses the tension with him.

“Ten bucks on a young, cocky male,” he says, walking to his betting board. “Get over there before he takes off. Write the ticket and I’ll let you assist Harris on the next investigation.”

I salute on my way out. “I’m on it, but no bet. You don’t pay me enough to throw money in the trash.”

Once outside, I tuck the blank tickets into the storage bag of my police bike and mount. My heart is racing. If I don’t get that promotion…

The laundromat is just up the street. In fact, almost everything within downtown Cedar Falls, Michigan, is “just up the street.” So patrolling on a bicycle is the ideal method of transportation, even though the other officers consider bike patrol as more of a punishment for being the “rookie.”

They can sit in their cushy police cars and enjoy the air conditioning. I prefer the sunshine, breathing fresh air, and interacting with the town folk.

I find the SUV easily enough. With the chief’s threat echoing in my ears, I radio into dispatch while retrieving the ticket book. “I’ve got a parking violation on South Grand Boulevard. Requesting details on license plate Lima – Uniform – Victor – 2 – Papa – Lima – Alpha – November.”

A chuckle resonates over the airwaves, and the dispatcher says, “Luv 2 Plan. Must be a woman who drives a mini or a Beetle.”

“Negative.” Perusing the inside of the laundromat through the windows, I try to guess which customer owns the car. Probably the only gentleman in the far corner. I don’t recognize him. Must be a tourist. “We’ve got an SUV and a damned powerful one. SRX. Wouldn’t be surprised if he has a record for speeding.”

As I wait for Trisha to look up the information on the owner of the vehicle, I fill out the remaining sections of the ticket.

The radio crackles to life again and echoes in the street. “Other than one reckless driving ticket—whew, he got that monster up to 115 mph—the record is clean. But you’re not going to believe his name. Wait for it…”

Typical Trisha. She blows past the reckless driving bit and, instead, focuses on a name. I roll my eyes, counting to three.

“Sheldon Cooper from Grand Rapids.”

I know that name from somewhere. “Oh, the geeky character on The Big Bang Theory! Well, they’re all kind of geeky. But like the super geeky one.”

“Affirmative,” Trisha says, still laughing.

No wonder he drives his car too fast. He’s trying to escape his name.

“Thanks for the help, Trisha.”

“Officer, wait,” she says, suddenly serious. “LEIN shows a bench warrant for unpaid parking tickets in Grand Rapids. Bond is set at $250. Should I request a patrol car to take him into custody?”

I grit my teeth. There’s no one else at the station but the chief, and he has plans this afternoon. We’re talking about parking violations, not narcotics or illegal weapons. If I don’t get this parking ticket written and the vehicle moved in the next ten minutes, I can kiss my promotion to detective goodbye. Shit. What would Chief Williams want me to do?

“What’s the pickup radius, Trisha?”

“Fifty miles.”

I wince. We’re two miles inside the limit. But it’s Saturday afternoon. No one wants to drive one-hundred miles round trip for parking violations. The cost of gas alone would cover the bond. Or at least part of it.

So this is Mr. Cooper’s lucky day.

“Don’t bother. I’ll put the fear of the law in him. Those tickets will be paid by Monday. Trust me.”

While I’m clipping the radio speaker back on my shoulder holster, a man bolts out of the Fluff ’n Fold. He skids to a halt in front of me.

“What’s the problem”—he scrunches his eyes, warding off the sunlight with his hand as he reads my name tag—“Officer Kristy Stone? The parking meter still has forty minutes.”

He gestures to the SUV with a pair of boxer briefs he’s holding in his right hand, smelling of “mountain fresh” or some other such bullshit. I have to admit briefs are my favorite. Snug. Showcasing a man’s junk. Based on his height alone, odds are this guy fills his out nicely. Totally unrelated and unprofessional thoughts, of course.

I rein in my smile, schooling my facial features as any professional would, while I finish writing his ticket. One thing is certain; this guy does not look like a Sheldon Cooper. The silver shade of his T-shirt is too sporty, and he has muscles bulging from under his sleeves. Those are impressive. Almost as spectacular as his set of baby blues, lined with thick, black lashes.

Nope, no geeks in sight. This is a guy I would date, if he lived around here. Damn shame he’s from Grand Rapids. The man is H. O. T.

“Are you Sheldon Cooper?” I rip off the top copy of the ticket.

“Yes, ma’am, but my friends call me Don.”

Handing over the ticket, I nod. “Then this is for you. Parking violation PRZL-1. You’re blocking two spaces.”

Other patrons of the laundromat peer out the window. Even passersby slow their vehicles to gawk. This is the most excitement they get all week.

Don walks to the side of the vehicle and stares at the yellow line; his brow furrows. “I’m barely over the line. Is this a joke? Wait! Today is April 1.” His deep chuckle resonates between us. “Hahaha. April Fools’ Day! The police in this town have a sense of humor.”

My lips twitch, but I don’t laugh. Jackass! Nice try, though. “I’m afraid not, Mr. Cooper. You have seventy-two hours to pay the fine at the courthouse.” I gesture down the road. “The hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Or you can pay online at any time. I suggest you pay this immediately, along with the rest of your unpaid tickets. There’s an outstanding bench warrant for your arrest in Grand Rapids. Let this serve as a warning. If I run into you again and the warrant is in effect, I’ll be forced to take you into custody. Do you understand, Mr. Cooper?”

He doesn’t react while he reads the ticket. “Forty-five dollars? I’m not paying this! Parking over the line isn’t even a violation in Grand Rapids. Have you tried parking between the lines in an SUV?”

Excuses, excuses. Courtesy for your neighbors still matters here. I raise my eyebrows. “Well, welcome to Cedar Falls! You’re breaking the law here. Parking in downtown is limited. Please move your vehicle over now and be sure to park between the yellow lines next time. Have a good day, sir.”

Time to peace out before he has a serious tantrum. I toss my ticket book into the saddlebag, zipping it closed.


Too late. Tall, pissed-off dude is heading my way. I shove my bike between us, creating a barrier while saying in an authoritative voice, “Listen up. I know this sucks, and you’re not from around here. But there are laws, and when you break them, you earn a ticket. When you don’t pay your fines you go to jail! So, I can cuff you right now and call for a patrol car or you can accept the consequences of your actions gracefully.”

He steps back, rubbing his hand over his chin, scratching the thick, black stubble. “Sorry, Officer, I didn’t mean to alarm you. You’re right. I’m at fault here. I just wasn’t aware of the city ordinance.”

“Go visit the tourist office. Pamela keeps a handy list on a business card of the most violated laws. You can carry it with you.”

“Look, I’m only in town for a while. Can’t you let me off, just this once?” His mouth widens in a dazzling smile, lending him a boyish charm. “I won’t tell anyone. This can be between us. I promise to visit the tourist office. I’ll even pay off my other parking tickets this afternoon. Business has been crazy lately, so it slipped my mind. No more violations, I swear! Scout’s honor.”

He raises his right hand, holding up three straight fingers. His eyes shine. And for some dumbass reason, I believe every word out of his delectable mouth. My heart stutters for an instant as he reels me in with those sensuous lips.

Crap! Chief Williams has a point about me being too soft. Still, Don’s plea doesn’t change the facts.

“I wish I could help you, but I can’t. You’ll have to fight this one in court. I’ve already written the ticket. All ticket numbers are logged and tracked.”

“Could you toss it in the trash? Spill coffee all over the ticket. My treat?”

I shake my head but grin at his ingenuity. “I called dispatch for your information. Sorry, but this one is already on the record.”

Blowing out a breath, he glares at the ticket in his hand. “Well, thanks. Guess it’s my own damn fault.”

True; however, not many of the cocky jerks I ticket have the balls to admit their guilt and take responsibility. He isn’t flying off the handle, and he showed a modicum of respect throughout the interchange. I could throw him a bone.

“My advice? Contest the ticket. Take a picture and argue there was enough space for another vehicle. The judge might agree with you. The only cost is your time.”

He shakes his head, frowning. “Nah, I’ll pay the fine. Why waste my time? Most judges are assholes.”

Like he paid his other fines? I snort while mounting my bike. His observation is mostly accurate, though not in this instance. “That’s your decision. The Honorable Brendan Stone is many things, but an asshole is not one of them. I might’ve even put in a positive word for you.”

The poor guy blanches and groans. “Please tell me that’s an April Fools’ joke. Is he your father?”

“Older brother,” I call over my shoulder as I ride away. “Tourist office is right this way! Stop by and pick up the rules.”

“Right after I move my car over!” he shouts after me, waving with his underwear. “And finish my laundry. Don’t want wrinkles.”

Circling around once, I ensure he reparks. As soon as I turn on Cider Road, laughter bubbles out of me in waves. The look on Don’s face when I told him the judge’s name was hilarious! I’ll giggle for a few days, at the very least.

Back at the police station, Chief Williams is about to hop into the passenger seat of his wife’s Yukon when I pull up.

“Issue resolved,” I say as I pull the ticket out of my satchel with a triumphant smile. “I’ll file this at the end of my shift. And, Chief…”

He lifts an eyebrow.

“You would’ve won ten bucks if I’d taken your bet.”

“Cocky bastard,” he grumbles. “Ten bucks says he has a record, too.”


I’m speechless for a moment. Do I tell him the truth about the bench warrant? Letting Don off with a warning seemed like the right decision at the time. Chief might think I was too nice.

“One speeding ticket.”

“That’s all?”

Lie outright, or deflect? With my heart hammering through the walls of my chest, I say, “It’s a beauty: 115 mph.”

He whistles. “Good job, Officer. You’re on the next investigation.”

“Thank you, sir.” The Yukon pulls around the corner, out of sight, and I slump against the building. I’m too young to die, and I just dodged a bullet.

Don’t make me regret letting you off the hook, Don Cooper. So long as he doesn’t get into trouble again before posting the bond, all will be well.